Arab decline began with the Jews

That nowinfamous handshake-that-wasn’t between the Israeli and the Egyptian judokai at the Rio Olympics, when Islam El- Shehaby snubbed Ori Sasson before being sent home in disgrace, gives food for thought to Bret Stephens. Societies who hate Jews are condemned to decline and fall, he argues in his outstanding article in the Wall St Journal. (With thanks: Eliyahu)

Ori Sasson offers his hand to Islam El-Shehaby

If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into
the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It did itself in
chiefly through its long-abiding and all-consuming hatred of Israel, and
of Jews.

That’s not a point you will find in a long article about the Arab crackup by Scott Anderson in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, where hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia—a given of
the landscape. Nor is it much mentioned in the wide literature about the
legacy of colonialism in the Middle East, or the oil curse, governance
gap, democracy deficit, youth bulge, sectarian divide, legitimacy crisis
and every other explanation for Arab decline.

Yet the fact
remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world got rid of its Jews,
some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time
the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, ruinously
expensive wars, misdirected ideological obsessions, and an intellectual
life perverted by conspiracy theory and the perpetual search for
scapegoats. The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind,
and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism.

As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. In a 2005 essayin Commentary, historian Paul Johnson noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed.

expelled its Jews with the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The effect, Mr.
Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class
already notable for the astute handling of finance.” In czarist Russia,
anti-Semitic laws led to mass Jewish emigration as well as an “immense
increase in administrative corruption produced by the system of
restrictions.” Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb
if Hitler hadn’t sent Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller into exile in the U.S.

patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause
was not the creation of the state of Israel. There were bloody
anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Lebanon in
1945. Nor is it accurate to blame Jerusalem for fueling anti-Semitism by
refusing to trade land for peace. Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel
barely abated after Menachem Begin relinquished the Sinai to Anwar Sadat. Among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process.

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  • yes and no, Selina. Southern Italy and Sicily were ruled by Spain around 1500. And it was Spain's rulers, not Italians, who decided to expel the Jews. However, some of the Jews stayed put and converted. Yet the south remained poorer and less developed than the north, as you say. But the Jewish descent of many of those southerners did not much help, and they were religiously Catholic (although some may have kept up awareness of their Jewish origins as well as some Jewish practices). The Jewish religion was banned until more recent times (probably until Italian unification in 1861) and Stephens is basically right.

    By the way, the bulk of the early Ashkenazim were migrants from southern Italy and Sicily who arrived in northern France and the Rhineland starting with Charlemagne.

  • As well as the Southern Italian region who expelled their Jews and in return are much poorer than the wealthier Northern Italian regions who prosper today


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